The Universal Declaration of Human Rights turned 70 on December 10. Governments and civil society organizations around the world commemorated the day with a range of activities.
Over the years, the Declaration has been a global beacon for Africans fighting against colonialism and for inclusive economic equality and sustainable development. Its provisions stand as aspirational goals for nations, and standards that nations are duty-bound to uphold and promote.
But what if despite your country’s commitment to uphold these and other fundamental freedoms, every year it was robbed of the financial resources necessary to promote and protect rights?
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In response to the news stories about Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker receiving payments from an anonymous company called the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency (FACT) Coalition, which has called for greater transparency and an end to anonymous companies, put out the following statement.
This week marks the one-year anniversary of the release of The Paradise Papers, a leak that included 13 million documents from a large offshore law firm. The leak detailed a number of tax avoidance techniques used by the wealthy and multinational corporations to avoid taxes. At the same time, Congress was rushing to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
In light of the Paradise Papers revelations, we encouraged lawmakers to carefully review the information from the leak and consider whether their overhaul would address the tax dodging practices exposed. They chose not to do so.
Unlike the earlier Panama Papers story, where Americans were notably absent, the Paradise Papers had clear U.S. connections. There was extensive data on the tax avoidance schemes of at least 31,000 U.S. citizens, residents, and companies including household names like Apple, Nike, and Uber. Rather than consider lessons to be learned around how policies might work in practice, lawmakers chose to ignore the warning signs. The tax law passed just over a month later with minimal attention paid to any of the insights to be gleaned from the leak. It should not be surprising that the law continues to encourage multinational corporations to engage in offshore tax schemes.
Back in June, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) formally filed a complaint alleging that TelWeb, a telemarketing system, used multiple shell companies to bypass laws against telemarketing robocalls. TelWeb has been the target of other lawsuits by the FTC. The investigation alleges that the system was used to conduct billions of illegal phone calls by telemarketers through an enterprise of shell companies.
The fact that this same system has been the target of so many separate investigations is evidence of a larger problem — companies can be formed in the United States without disclosing their beneficial ownership information (the people who truly own them), allowing criminals to quickly rebrand and jump right back into doing the same illegal activities under a fresh new corporate name. TelWeb was able to use multiple shell companies throughout its scamming system, and the men in charge of connecting TelWeb to telemarketers have a history of being named in previous FTC lawsuits. Yet they were able to continue in the industry under different names.
Support for Beneficial Ownership Transparency is widespread, crossing industries and the ideological spectrum. Here is a list of supporters.
Boston is being transformed by a luxury housing boom. A decade from now, the city’s skyline and population demographics will be fundamentally altered by decisions being made today.
This boom has clear benefits, providing jobs in the building trades and increasing property tax revenue for the city. And the city has negotiated for affordable housing set-aside or linkage funds from some projects. But the boom is not doing enough to address Boston’s acute affordable housing crisis and will accelerate economic inequality in the city.
Let’s strike back at the attackers by heeding the informed advice of those attacked. Let’s end the use of anonymous companies.
Drug traffickers, corrupt officials, rogue nations seeking to evade sanctions, terrorists, and other criminals use anonymous companies to hide the money they steal and maintain the power they hold.
Many of the most dangerous criminal elements now operate sophisticated financial networks. They have updated the way they do “business,” which Includes the use of companies with hidden owners. As the rest of the world cracks down on corporate secrecy, the criminals and other wrongdoers are looking increasingly to the U.S.
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Customer Due Diligence (CDD) Rule for Financial Institutions1 is a critical piece in a larger strategy to protect the integrity of our financial system from abuse and the nation from a broad array of harms.
Over the past two weeks, Americans have been treated to one of the most astonishing tales of grand corruption in our republic’s history. The trial of Paul Manafort – former Trump campaign chairman and lobbyist for some of the sleaziest regimes of the past quarter-century – has given us a remarkable look at the tools, the tactics and the trade craft of kleptocratic overseas regimes, and how their Western enablers have abetted America’s transformation into a thriving offshore haven.
The trial, of course, is about much more than Manafort. As the Atlantic’s Franklin Foer has written, the proceedings against the ex-lobbyist, who made tens of millions from his consulting work for then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, have offered “an occasion for the United States to awaken from its collective slumber about the creeping dangers of kleptocracy.”
Are we getting the message?
Commercial Support for Ownership Disclosure Grows as National Foreign Trade Council Backs Incorporation Transparency
Momentum continues to build in the fight to tackle the abuse of anonymous shell companies.
Richard Sawaya, the vice president of the National Foreign Trade Council, which represents major U.S. multinational businesses, just endorsed cracking down on money laundering and anonymous shell companies in a new op-ed in The Hill regarding Russia sanctions.
While the FACT Coalition takes no position on most of the content in the op-ed, the penultimate paragraph of the article says:
“Congress should focus on… incorporating new ideas… that would crack down on Russian money laundering and shell corporations, expose the financial crimes of Putin cronies, and prevent U.S. real estate from being a haven for kleptocrat money, all without measurably hurting the U.S. economy.”
NFTC—whose’s board of directors consists of major U.S. businesses including Caterpillar, Coca-Cola, Exxon, Fluor, General Electric, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, and Walmart—joins the entire financial services industry, the National Association of Realtors, the vast majority of small business owners, and other large companies such as Dow Chemical, Unilever, and Salesforce in pushing for incorporation transparency.